I Think I Killed 'Hitman'
How irrational buying habits kept me away from one of last year's greatest games.
courtesy Square Enix
Sooooo how's everybody doing this morning? Oh, me? I'm good… well, actually, just between us, I'm a little worried I accidentally killed the Hitman franchise.
I mean, not me personally. It's not like I slipped up behind 47 with a length of piano wire and sent him to wherever Kane & Lynch have ended up. But I have to admit that despite hours of podcasts about the game, countless gifs and videos, and near-daily reminders from Austin that, "Dude, you gotta play this game" I never actually bought Hitman. I came close! But I never "executed the contract" as you might say. And here we are, with the series' future looking grim and layoffs hitting Io Interactive as the studio tries to transition to a post-Square Enix future.
I know it's not really rational, but each time I considered buying the game, something about the piecemeal nature of its release turned me off. Some stupid, lab-monkey part of my brain looked at a game that added up to one of the best games of 2016, maybe one of the best games of this decade, and decided that I didn't want to be buying a game for $10 per level. Never mind that it added up to a typical $60 game. There was some kind of mental tripwire between me and Hitman that I hit every time I loaded it into my Steam shopping cart.
And judging from where the game placed in Steam's best-sellers list, I suspect I'm not the only person who was weirdly turned-off from a game they would have liked. Despite the fact that the value-proposition turned out to be terrific and that it absolutely wasn't a nickel-and-dime model… it irrationally felt like one.
I know that humans are bad at assessing all kind of decisions, and in the scheme of things failing to buy a good video game is probably the least of my sins. But I'm also struck by how often I find sales models discouraging now, becoming demoralized as I look up lists of "must-have" DLC and how the costs add up. Yet I'm also stunned when I look at my Steam library and contemplate the small fortune I have spent on "bargains" that I have never and likely will never play.
If I had to guess about this particular aspect of my irrationality, it's that the Hitman model didn't satisfy an under-appreciated need: the illusion of time. Buying a complete game promises so many possibilities, and maybe also the leisure to appreciate them. How many people never finished The Witcher 3 but just like knowing that whole world is still out there somewhere, waiting for them?
But a single level? It fits inside your busy day. Less an escape than a long pause. And quite unfairly, my brain somehow feels entitled to more from a game.
Anyway, that's my irrational hang-up about our brave new video game economy, but what's yours? What's the dumb shit you buy that you know you're taking a bath on, and what experiences do you know you let yourself be cheated out of?